Patsy gets out of prison, sober and determined to create a new life for herself. She returns to teaching, becomes friends with the young male lover of her former boyfriend, and meets and eventually marries his charismatic uncle Cal--despite Cal's sister Audrey warning Patsy that the May-December nature of their relationship will end up causing problems. Cal is already an AA star, and as his wife, Patsy is also frequently asked to speak at meetings around California and submit to interviews, sometimes with the husband/father of her victims.
Years pass, and it turns out Audrey had a point. Still, Patsy is committed to staying on the path she created for herself when she first left prison. Then something extraordinary happens that releases Patsy from the guilt she has carried; Cal's inability to respond enthusiastically to this event frees Patsy to create another way of living her life, one that offers her more satisfaction.
Blame is an interesting read, offering insight into the workings of AA and the potential downside of being the younger wife of a man approaching 80. Given the centrality of Patsy's guilt to the story, I expected a depthier exploration of guilt, shame, and blame--but it is not until Patsy's guilt is lifted that we begin to understand its effects--and perhaps that's the point.
Cal's kids always mattered in ways that she--the third, childless wife--could never hope to eclipse. she'd known her status when she married him. It was the sham of her marriage, really, the don't-look-too-close fine print of their agreement. A healthier, more self-respecting woman--Audrey, for example, would never have signed on.